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Author Topic: Great Western Road Trip of 2021 (Days 1-3)  (Read 1066 times)

hbelkins

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    • Millennium Highway
Great Western Road Trip of 2021 (Days 1-3)
« on: August 15, 2021, 11:24:08 PM »

Coming to you from Williston, ND, tonight. We're farther west than we figured we'd be by this time, but not really by choice. Details to follow...

Day 1 (KY to MI)

Uneventful trip from home to Lexington, and then from Lexington on to my brother's. This was the first time I had used US 60 between Lexington and Frankfort in years. There is significant rehab work taking place on the US 60 Versailles bypass that I thought was completed, but it's still going strong.

Upon arrival at my brother's place in Owen County, we departed around 2:30 pm EDT. Route was US 127, I-71, I-75, US 23, and I-75 again.

Brent Spence Bridge traffic was a total cluster foxtrot. There was a small backup approaching I-275, but it opened up until about Buttermilk Pike, and then it was stop-and-go all the way down the hill and onto the bridge. Once on the bridge, traffic moved very smoothly. The major problem with the approaches to the BSB construction are that traffic doesn't know well in advance which lane it needs to be in for I-71 or I-75, or which lane closes. The way the setup is now. the far left lane closes and all the I-75 traffic needs to get in one lane. If the options were signed well in advance, drivers could pick their lanes.

Quite a bit of work has been done north of the bridge since the last time I was in the area. The usual slowdown occurred past the lateral and around Paddock Road.

The Ohio revenue generators were out in full force.

Other than a few blue services signs, I only saw two button copy signs left on I-75, both of them in the Dayton area.

Got in a couple of downpours as we got closer to Toledo. I was unable to get a photo, but on one reassurance marker, "North" was in upper-and-lowercase instead of all caps.

We had figured on staying in the Ann Arbor area, but hotel prices were either highly inflated, or everything was sold out. Same for Flint. We went to one Best Western that indicated it had vacancies, but they had a power outage and were closed. (Not sure why the power was out; several other businesses in the area appeared to have emergency lighting only going.)

We also noticed that a lot of restaurants were closed early, and everything else was drive-through only. Whether this was because of the lack of help, c0v1d, or some other reason, who knows.

Michigan has fallen in love with roundabouts and barbell (or dogbone, if you prefer) exits.

We finally ended up at a Red Roof on the south side of Saginaw, which cost too much for the room we got, but at least it was a room. At least this had put us about 90 minutes ahead of where we thought we would be.

Day 2 (MI to MN)

Started out heading north on I-75 with original plans to stop somewhere around Ironwood at the MI/WI line in the UP, but again, lack of available accommodations caused us to get farther than we expected.

There was a slight backup of traffic approaching the toll booth at the end of the Mackinac Bridge, more going north than going south. We exited at the rest area, but there were no good views to be had of the bridge. Then we remembered the best bridge view was off US 2, so we went there to get some photos. When we left, traffic from US 2 was backing up onto the ramp to southbound I-75.

Route for the day was I-75 to US 2 to M-77 to M-28 to US 2.

As noted above, Michigan (and Wisconsin, too) have fallen in love with those damnable roundabouts. They're infesting the UP, especially (for no apparent reason) the Marquette Bypass.

There are still a few Highway Gothic signs left in the UP, but quite a bit of Clearview, too.

Speed limits were mostly 65, except -- for no obvious reason -- US 41/M-28 west of Marquette. Once M-28 turns onto US 141, the speed limit bumps up to 65.

Restaurant lobbies for fast-food places were closed at the ones we tried in Marquette, so we ended up eating lunch inside at Lawry's Pasty Shop.

Interesting note that at the US 41/M-28 split at US 141, "Duluth, MN" is noted as one of the destinations. It's not mentioned again until well into Wisconsin.

We went through Ironwood very early, so decided to press on. The bridge at US 51 has been torn down, and the ramps are gone, but the roundabout has not yet taken shape. There's just an at-grade intersection there.

Some interesting crack-sealing had been done on US 2. A while caulk-like substance had been used instead of black tar, and in some places it looked like that substance had been applied with tape, and the "backing" (so to speak) of the tape was loose and flapping.

We needed to stop at Ashland at the Walmart to grab something (I was having camera problems and needed some Gorilla Tape to hold my battery door securely) and should have just gotten a room there, but we didn't. We figured we could turn up something in Superior or Duluth. Nope. Everything in both cities was sold out for Saturday night except a Holiday Inn at $400-something. (We heard later it was because of some music festival.) Not in this lifetime. We figured we might have to drive all the way to Grand Rapids, but my brother discovered the Stardust Motel in Floodwood, Minn. He called them, and they'd had a cancellation. One of their seven rooms was available. He told the nice lady we'd be there in about a half-hour. It's a quaint little mom-and-pop place that was cozy and comfortable and had been recently renovated. Floodwood only has about 500 people, but there's a Speedway across the street. It worked out just fine, and we got even farther than we'd planned although it was well past dark when we got there.

Gas prices both days were in the $3-$3.20 range. Lots of Holiday and Krist stations along the route, and a few Speedways (I think the one at Floodwood was the last one I remember seeing). Started seeing Cenex stations as well.

Day 3 (MN-ND)

As noted previously, we're in Williston tonight, and we'd expected to be in Minot. We actually got here before dark.

Route was US 2 (with signed detours) the entire way. The closure of US 2 was signed at MN 200, which took us across the Mississippi River in a spot where it's very narrow. There's a small roadside park there, so we parked and walked across the bridge. The signed detour for US 2 used a county road that comes out in Grand Rapids just prior to the US 169 intersection.

We ate lunch at A&W in Fosston, which seems to be the dividing line between the wooded area and the farmland prairie. Saw lots of Cenex stations, with a few Arco and Sinclair mixed in. At least three areas of the four-lane have one side closed for rehab.

Easy drive across US 2 in Nebraska. Most of the state route markers along the route are the old "Indian head" design, with only a scattering of the new state outline markers. I'd say 75-25 old to new style.

Lots of oil wells west of Minot, and a couple of interesting valleys with some rolling terrain. Many of the hotels in Williston appear to be new, but rates are generally cheap. We had reserved a room here tonight to avoid the problems the first two nights. There's even a Kum-and-Go up the street. I didn't realize they were this far north.

Tomorrow we'll be on the east side of Glacier.
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TheHighwayMan394

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Re: Great Western Road Trip of 2021 (Days 1-3)
« Reply #1 on: August 20, 2021, 03:59:21 PM »

Ashland hotels wouldn't have been nearly as bad as Duluth (assuming they had any openings on a weekend anyway), but probably still significantly more than you would have wanted to pay. In that part of the country, hotels have about 5 1/2 months to make all their money for the year, and between that and the crowds it means I only day trip up to Lake Superior during summer.

In this day and age, travellers really can't come up to the Lake Superior region in summer without something in place well in advance. You'll either end up with nothing, having to drive way out of the way, or pay through the nose if you try to do day-of reservations.
« Last Edit: August 20, 2021, 08:44:00 PM by TheHighwayMan394 »
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